When reflecting on today’s

OLD TESTAMENT EXTRACT [GENESIS 18: 20 – 32] it is essential to radically enlarge the boundaries away from the limitations so easily placed by the traditional understanding of the particular sins of Sodom and Gomorrah …. much more is at stake.

First of all, we must understand that the offering of hospitality was an extremely important aspect of Hebrew community life. However, such hospitality was seldom, if ever, confined to the offering of refreshments. The traveller (so often a stranger) usually needed –

LODGING! In addition, it was expected that the host / hostess accepted that hospitality extended to a stranger was hospitality offered to the Lord, and a poignant reminder that God’s People were once ‘strangers in a foreign land’. The traveller had to be LODGED, and if that led to the abuse of the stranger, then God himself was abused.

Such lodging was a matter of divine law by which Sodom and Gomorrah were supposed to be governed, and as a result people were not assigned purely to the realm of the world where human life ceased to be determined by faith, religion, or any divine authority.

So, when cities like Sodom and Gomorrah chose not to give a realistic LODGING to God in all its affairs and its day-to-day conduct, the Lord God was displeased and affronted.

Today the Genesis reading reminds us that the Christian disciple living in a purely secular society is called to be salt of the earth and light to the world
{Matthew 5: 13 -16} – especially when we find ourselves in conflict situations. We are expected to know what the Lord asks of us.

In this regard, be aware that our Genesis extract introduces us to the Hebrew practice of arguing with God. This approach finds its climax in the Book of Job, and is a specific process by which we ‘discover’ what is the mind of God. It is not simply a matter of disagreement but, rather, a process of dialogue in an effort to fully understand the truth involved in as it exists for a particular situation and challenge. We could, profitably, use this sort of dialogue in our own conversations with the Lord – but we must be willing to hear his point of view and discern the correct approach.

We should not see any argument merely in terms of pushing our own point of view against all odds – but, rather, exchanging views in order to reach the correct conclusion. No argument is ever really ‘won’ when each side pushes its own point of view, and refuses to acknowledge elements of truth in the ‘other side’.

So,

TODAY’S GOSPEL EXTRACT [LUKE 11: 1 – 13] brings everything we have said so far into clear focus. In our arguing with God there must be a genuine asking, an honest seeking, and a reverent knocking. (Recall the manner of Abraham’s arguing.) It is the only way to receiving, finding, and having the truth opened to us. There are no instant solutions to real conflicts of interest. When the process is rushed and we attempt to force our own view nothing is really achieved – and we remain in the same position as we started. We always need to approach God as a friend, and with importunity (pressing with persistence – again, as Abraham did.) Any other way, and we may well end up with a serpent instead of a fish, or a scorpion in place of an egg. God-in-Christ should not be badgered.

What was happening in Sodom and Gomorrah was the fact that the lodging being offered was of the serpent and scorpion variety – and these were neither requested nor expected. The lodging, in reality, was a subterfuge. There was another totally different agenda.

It is often forgotten and unrecognised that the Gospel and Christian discipleship make greater demands on us, and do not provide greater advantages. We should never ‘demand’ responses and behaviour from others (as well as the Lord!) as if we have the greater advantage of being ‘right’. We could end up being hoisted on our own petards! So, as an example, one should be wary of insisting on the absolute good of capital punishment – and then end up having to approve of, and justify, the execution of one own’s son or daughter!

It is interesting to see that in

TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT SCRIPTURE [COLOSSIANS 2: 12 – 14] Paul speaks of the bond which stood against was cancelled by the cross. The cross was a sign of contradiction (argument!). It was in the manner Christ employed it that reconciliation, peace and harmony were restored – and proper lodging became a reality.

In addition,

TODAY’S PSALM [138 or 137] gives strong focus – “You give me life though I walk amid affliction.” Real life emerges from our arguing with God and the lodging hospitality with which we provide him.